BJP supporters celebrate as early trends show the party's thumping win in the UP Election Results assembly polls on Saturday. Pic/PTI
New Delhi: The BJP swept to an unprecedented two-thirds majority in Uttar Pradesh and bagged Uttarakhand too and was neck and neck with the Congress in Goa and Manipur in the country's biggest mandate since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The Congress returned to power in Punjab after a 10-year gap.
A euphoric Bharatiya Janata Party called it a "historic" verdict that would make a major impact on Indian politics even as the Congress admitted it was stunned by the scale of the verdict in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
From being the third largest group in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, the BJP, powered by an aggressive campaign spearheaded by Modi, catapulted to winning a whopping 324 seats -- a never-before showing by any party in the country's most populous state.
The victory left the ruling Samajwadi Party and its ally Congress punctured with just 55 seats while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was left a pathetic 19 seats. While Samajwadi Party leader and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav promptly resigned, BSP leader Mayawati attributed the rout to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which she said were manipulated.
"The historic mandate given to the BJP will give a new direction to Indian politics. It will end the politics of caste, dynasty (parivarvaad) and appeasement," BJP President Amit Shah said. The BJP, he added, would form governments in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
The Congress suffered an equally humiliating defeat in neighbouring Uttarakhand too. The BJP ousted it from power, winning 57 of the 70 seats, some of the victors being disgruntled Congress veterans who had joined the saffron outfit.
The Congress was left with just 11 legislators, with outgoing Chief Minister Harish Rawat losing both the seats he contested, one narrowly, to his BJP opponents.
"It is a monumental setback. We are disappointed with Uttar Pradesh," Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha said. Added Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit: "Our party is looking confused."
But other party leaders rushed to defend Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, saying he alone must not be blamed for the rout in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress, having become in recent decades an also-ran, aligned with the Samajwadi Party just before the staggered assembly election.
BJP-ruled Goa, however, appeared headed for a hung assembly, with both the Congress and the BJP claiming they will form the government in the coastal state.
The Congress inched towards becoming the single largest party in the 40-member house winning 18 seats while the BJP had netted 14. The balance of power now lay in the hands of smaller parties including Goa Forward and the MGP. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was routed.
With 26 winners, the Congress also led the BJP (22 winners) in the troubled northeastern state of Manipur that it rules. But with both groups falling short of a majority in the 60-member house, smaller parties will play a key role in government formation.
The Congress had plenty to celebrate in Punjab where it returned to power comfortably after a decade in the opposition, crushing both the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine as well as the AAP that was confident of winning in the border state.
Led by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who turned 75 on Saturday, the Congress won as many as 77 of the 117 seats, leaving the AAP with just 22 seats but as the main opposition in the assembly. The Akals and BJP had just 18 seats, with as many as 10 ministers worsted in the battle.
Prime Minister Modi telephoned Amarinder Singh to congratulate him. The AAP, which had invested heavily in Punjab, licked its wounds, its leaders saying they would introspect to know what went wrong.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP's success rate enveloped both urban and rural areas and appeared to demolish traditional caste equations. BJP candidates won in all major cities including Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur and Varanasi, Modi's Lok Sabha constituency.
While the Congress fared not so badly in Rae Bareli, it took a drubbing in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi's Lok Sabha seat.
BJP leader Yogi Adityanath told IANS: "Good work done by the Modi government and (BJP President) Amit Shah's strategy has paid dividends."